Captivity (animal)

Animals that are held by humans and prevented from escaping are said to be in captivity.[1] The term is usually applied to wild animals that are held in confinement, but may also be used generally to describe the keeping of domesticated animals such as livestock or pets. This may include, for example, animals in farms, private homes, zoos and laboratories. Animal captivity may be categorized according to the particular motives, objectives and conditions of the confinement.


Throughout history not only domestic animals as pets and livestock were kept in captivity and under human care, but also wild animals. Some were failed domestication attempts. Also, in past times, primarily the wealthy, aristocrats and kings collected wild animals for various reasons. Contrary to domestication, the ferociousness and natural behaviour of the wild animals were preserved and exhibited. Today's zoos claim other reasons for keeping animals under human care: conservation, education and science.

Mexican wolf lounging
An endangered Mexican gray wolf is kept in captivity for breeding purposes.

Behavior of animals in captivity

Captive animals, especially those not domesticated, sometimes develop abnormal behaviours.

One type of abnormal behaviour is stereotypical behaviors, i.e. repetitive and apparently purposeless motor behaviors. Examples of stereotypical behaviours include pacing, self-injury, route tracing and excessive self-grooming. These behaviors are associated with stress and lack of stimulation. Many who keep animals in captivity attempt to prevent or decrease stereotypical behavior by introducing stimuli, a process known as environmental enrichment.

A type of abnormal behavior shown in captive animals is self-injurious behavior (SIB). Self-injurious behavior indicates any activity that involves biting, scratching, hitting, hair plucking, or eye poke that may result in injuring oneself.[2] Although its reported incidence is low, self-injurious behavior is observed across a range of primate species, especially when they experience social isolation in infancy.[3] Self-bite involves biting one’s own body—typically the arms, legs, shoulders, or genitals. Threat bite involves biting one’s own body—typically the hand, wrist, or forearm—while staring at the observer, conspecific, or mirror in a threatening manner. Self-hit involves striking oneself on any part of the body. Eye poking is a behavior (widely observed in primates) that presses the knuckle or finger into the orbital space above the eye socket. Hair plucking is a jerking motion applied to one’s own hair with hands or teeth, resulting in its excessive removal.[2]

The proximal causes of self-injurious behavior have been widely studied in captive primates; either social or nonsocial factors can trigger this type of behavior. Social factors include changes in group composition, stress, separation from the group, approaches by or aggression from members of other groups, conspecific male individuals nearby, separation from females, and removal from the group.[3] Social isolation, particularly disruptions of early mother-rearing experiences, is an important risk factor.[2] Studies have suggested that, although mother-reared rhesus macaques still exhibit some self-injurious behaviors,[4] nursery-reared rhesus macaques are much more likely to self-abuse than mother-reared ones.[2] Nonsocial factors include the presence of a small cut, a wound or irritant, cold weather, human contact, and frequent zoo visitors.[3] For example, a study has shown that zoo visitor density positively correlates with the number of gorillas banging on the barrier, and that low zoo visitor density caused gorillas to behave in a more relaxed way. Captive animals often cannot escape the attention and disruption caused by the general public, and the stress resulting from this lack of environmental control may lead to an increased rate of self-injurious behaviors.[5]

On top of self inflicted harm, some animals exhibit harm towards others and internal psychological harm. This can be exhibited in various forma, such as Orca whales, which never have killed a human in the wild, killing two of its own trainers. Psychological tics can also be identified, ranging from swaying to head bobbing to pacing. Continuous inbreeding is also bringing out mental disadvantages, such as crossed eyes and infertility.

Studies suggest that many abnormal captive behaviors, including self-injurious behavior, can be successfully treated by pair housing. Pair housing provides a previously single-housed animal with a same-sex social partner;[6] this method is especially effective with primates, which are widely known to be social animals.[7] Social companionship provided by pair housing encourages social interaction, thus reducing abnormal and anxiety-related behavior in captive animals as well as increasing their locomotion.[6]

See also

Animal husbandry

Pet keeping

Animal welfare

Wild animal keeping


  1. ^ Definitions, 1911 CHAPTER 27 1 and 2 Geo 5; "...the expression “captive animal” means any animal (not being a domestic animal) of whatsoever kind or species, and whether a quadruped or not, including any bird, fish, or reptile, which is in captivity, or confinement, or which is maimed, pinioned, or subjected to any appliance or contrivance for the purpose of hindering or preventing its escape from captivity or confinement..."; Protection of Animals Act 1911;
  2. ^ a b c d Rommeck, Ina; Anderson, Kristen; Heagerty, Allison; Cameron, Ashley; McCowan, Brenda (2009). "Risk factors and remediation of self-injurious and self-abuse behavior in rhesus macaques". Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. 12 (1): 61–72. doi:10.1080/10888700802536798. PMC 4443667. PMID 17209750.
  3. ^ a b c Hosey, Geoff R.; Skyner, Lindsay J. (2007). "Self-injurious behavior in zoo primates". International Journal of Primatology. 28 (6): 1431–1437. doi:10.1007/s10764-007-9203-z.
  4. ^ Erwin, J.; Mitchell, G.; Maple, Terry (1973). "Abnormal behavior in non-isolate-reared rhesus monkeys". Psychological Reports. 33 (2): 515–523. doi:10.2466/pr0.1973.33.2.515. PMID 4202533.
  5. ^ Wells, Deborah L. (2005). "A note on the influence of visitors on the behavior and welfare of zoo-housed gorillas". Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 93 (1–2): 13–17. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2005.06.019. (Subscription required (help)).
  6. ^ a b Baker, Kate C.; Bloomsmith, Mollie A.; Oettinger, Brooke; Neu, Kimberly; Griffis, Caroline; Schoof, Valérie; Maloney, Margaret (2012). "Benefits of pair housing are consistent across a diverse population of rhesus macaques". Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 137 (3–4): 148–156. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2011.09.010. PMC 4307811. PMID 25635151. (Subscription required (help)).
  7. ^ Weed, J.L.; Wagner, P.O.; Byrum, R.; Parrish, S.; Knezevich, M.; Powell, D.A. (2003). "Treatment of persistent self-injurious behavior in rhesus monkeys through socialization: A preliminary report". Contemporary Topics in Laboratory Animal Science. 42 (5): 21–23. PMID 14510519. (Subscription required (help)).

External links

Captivity (disambiguation)

Captivity is a state wherein humans or other animals are confined to a particular space and prevented from leaving or moving freely.

Captivity may also refer to:

Captivity (animal), the keeping of either domesticated animals (livestock and pets) or wild animals

Captivity (film), a 2007 U.S.-Russia thriller film by Roland Joffe and starring Elisha Cuthbert

Babylonian captivity of Judah, as described in the Bible


Feather-plucking, sometimes termed feather-picking, feather damaging behaviour or pterotillomania, is a maladaptive, behavioural disorder commonly seen in captive birds which chew, bite or pluck their own feathers with their beak, resulting in damage to the feathers and occasionally the skin. It is especially common among Psittaciformes, with an estimated 10% of captive parrots exhibiting the disorder. The areas of the body that are mainly pecked or plucked are the more accessible regions such as the neck, chest, flank, inner thigh and ventral wing area. Contour and down feathers are generally identified as the main target, although in some cases, tail and flight feathers are affected. Although feather-plucking shares characteristics with feather pecking commonly seen in commercial poultry, the two behaviours are currently considered to be distinct as in the latter, the birds peck at and pull out the feathers of other individuals.

Feather-plucking has characteristics that are similar to trichotillomania, an impulse control disorder in humans, and hair-pulling which has been reported in mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, sheep and muskox, dogs and cats, leading to suggestions for a comparative psychology approach to alleviating these problems.

International Primate Day

International Primate Day, September 1, is an annual educational observance event organized since 2005 largely by British-based Animal Defenders International (ADI) and supported annually by various primate-oriented advocacy organizations, speaks for all higher and lower primates, typically endorsing humane agendas where primates are at risk, as in research institutions or species endangerment in precarious environmental situations.The event is increasingly practiced by primate advocacy nonprofits in several nations. AOL News has covered the observance each year since 2005, and YahooNews has more recently begun reporting the event.

In 2007, according to Animal Defenders International (ADI), "‘Monkey in a Cage’ by Maria Daines topped the Indie music chart in the week following International Primate Day after a campaign enabling people to download via our websites."In 2016, Animal Defenders International (ADI) received a celebrity endorsement from Moby for their attempt to help the Barbary macaques for that year's event.


A pet or companion animal is an animal kept primarily for a person's company, protection, entertainment, or as an act of compassion such as taking in and protecting a hungry stray cat, rather than as a working animal, livestock, or laboratory animal. Popular pets are often noted for their attractive appearances, intelligence, and relatable personalities, or may just be accepted as they are because they need a home.

Two of the most popular pets are dogs and cats. The technical term for a cat lover is an ailurophile, and for a dog lover, a cynophile. Other animals commonly kept include rabbits; ferrets; pigs; rodents, such as gerbils, hamsters, chinchillas, rats, and guinea pigs; avian pets, such as parrots, passerines, and fowl; reptile pets, such as turtles, alligators, crocodiles, lizards, and snakes; aquatic pets, such as fish, freshwater and saltwater snails, and frogs; and arthropod pets, such as tarantulas and hermit crabs. Small pets may be grouped together as pocket pets, while the equine and bovine group include the largest companion animals.

Pets provide their owners (or "guardians") both physical and emotional benefits. Walking a dog can provide both the human and the dog with exercise, fresh air, and social interaction. Pets can give companionship to people who are living alone or elderly adults who do not have adequate social interaction with other people. There is a medically approved class of therapy animals, mostly dogs or cats, that are brought to visit confined humans, such as children in hospitals or elders in nursing homes. Pet therapy utilizes trained animals and handlers to achieve specific physical, social, cognitive or emotional goals with patients.

Some scholars, ethicists and animal rights organizations have raised concerns over keeping pets because of the lack of autonomy and objectification of nonhuman animals.

Stereotypy (non-human)

In animal behaviour, stereotypy, stereotypical or stereotyped behaviour has several meanings, leading to ambiguity in the scientific literature. A stereotypy is a term for a group of phenotypic behaviours that are repetitive, morphologically identical and which possess no obvious goal or function. These behaviours have been defined as ‘abnormal’ as they exhibit themselves solely to animals subjected to barren environments, scheduled or restricted feedings, social deprivation and other cases of frustration, but do not arise in ‘normal’ animals in their natural environments. These behaviours may be maladaptive, involving self-injury or reduced reproductive success, and in laboratory animals can confound behavioural research. Stereotypical behaviours are thought to be caused ultimately by artificial environments that do not allow animals to satisfy their normal behavioural needs. Rather than refer to the behaviour as abnormal, it has been suggested that it be described as "behaviour indicative of an abnormal environment."Stereotyped behaviour can also refer to normal behaviours that show low variation. For example, mammalian chewing cycles or fish capturing prey using suction feeding. Highly stereotyped movements may be due to mechanical constraint (such as the skull of a viper or fish, in which bones are mechanically linked), tight neural control (as in mammalian chewing), or both. The degree of stereotyping may vary markedly between closely related species engaging in the same behaviour.

Vulpes vulpes kurdistanica

The Kurdistan red fox (Vulpes vulpes kurdistanica) is a subspecies of the red fox, found specially in northeast part of Turkey.

The Turkish government recognizes the subspecies as Vulpes vulpes for nationalistic reasons.

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